When you turn weapons into jewelry, people notice. You get interviewed by O Magazine, Time, the CBS Evening News, Yahoo! News, and The Chicago Tribune. You get mentioned in a New York Times op-ed piece. You receive messages from strangers.
“The young man in the apartment below was checking out his new loaded assault rifle. It went off into the ceiling and through the floor, the box spring, the mattress, the pillow, and finally the skull of a sleeping boy,” one stranger wrote to Jessica Mindich ’92. “Ideas like yours are so very important … Your bracelets are a voice to all victims.”
Mindich launched her Caliber Collection in November 2012 after hearing Newark Mayor Cory Booker speak about gun violence in America. The jewelry line – bracelets and cufflinks – is made from firearms and bullet casings seized by the Newark Police Department.
Though she has no ties to the New Jersey city and lives in Connecticut, her desire to get involved was immediate.
“As somebody who creates jewelry as a fundraising tool, I thought, ‘How can we help?’ Cory and I talked over many weeks about creating a line of jewelry that transformed guns into a symbol of hope,” Mindich said. “The Caliber Collection is the newest retail line of Jewelry for a Cause, which I started in 2008.”
“Jewelry for a Cause designs and creates inexpensive yet fashionable jewelry, which is sold at a profit to raise money for various schools and charities,” she continued. “The company is responsible for over $400,000 in philanthropy to worthy causes, including the Red Cross, Alzheimer’s Association, Donorschoose.org and, of course, the Newark Police Foundation.”
Proceeds from Caliber Collection bracelets, which cost between $150 and $1,275 each, help the foundation fund its gun buyback amnesty program. So far, Mindich’s accessories have raised $60,000 for the effort, which resulted in the first privately supported buyback in Newark history in April.
"This collection is about getting illegal guns off America’s streets. The name Caliber Collection actually came from my 12-year-old son, Max,” Mindich said. “It’s perfect because of the double entendre – the caliber of a gun, and the fact that, when you get illegal guns off the streets, you raise the caliber of a city.”
Symbolism is also heavily entrenched in the physical design of the pieces. Each bracelet is an oval, not a circle, for a very specific reason. “They’re shaped like the trigger cage of a gun, an area that could cause so much destruction with only the pull of a finger,” Mindich said. “On both sides of each bracelet, you also see the serial number of one of the guns we melted down. It’s a reminder that this jewelry was a real gun, one that will never go back on the street again.” Caliber Collection bracelets also come in unique wrapping, rendered to look like an evidence bag.
“I never wanted to see a Caliber bracelet packaged with pretty tissue paper and a bow,” Mindich said. “I wanted to make the story of Caliber, and what it really represents, clear.”
General counsel for an internet company before starting Jewelry for a Cause, Mindich majored in sociology at Union. It’s a field that taught her a lot about human behavior and social change, and inspired her to help people both as a lawyer and a philanthropic jeweler.
“When I was at Union, we looked at such a wide range of behaviors – from gender and the family to religions and social problems – that I guess it became second nature to me,” she explained. “Jewelry for a Cause is a way to wear your heart, and your cause, on your neck, wrist or ears.”
“My goal is to bring Caliber to cities across America and remove illegal guns from the streets, and have people around the world recognize Caliber as a symbol of strength and hope,” Mindich continued. “We are well on our way with the establishment of the Caliber Foundation, which supports families and victims of senseless gun violence.”
To learn more, visit http://www.jewelryforacause.net/